Shrek - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Shrek Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ January 4, 2010
A wonderful satirical fable that cleverly subverts those well-known fairy tales, offering endless fun for kids and pure delight for adults with some astonishing visuals and acid humor while being extremely funny, enchanting and surprisingly sweet.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ November 16, 2014
In my review of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I spoke about how the cultural indelibilty of a film, series or character can often lead us to forget how good or bad the individual instalments are. Indiana Jones is as central a part of our filmmaking culture as Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, and all too often we find ourselves simply reiterating platitudes about their reputations, rather than examining them in detail.

We find ourselves in a similar position with the Shrek series, which depending on your view is either the jewel in Dreamworks' crown or a sad indictment of how Jeffrey Katzenberg cynically squeezes all the creativity out of what was once a good idea. Taken as part and parcel of its reputation, it's easy to hold the first Shrek (and by extension Shrek 2) in high regard, only because the later instalments were not as good. But even outside of its reputation, it's a truly great film and is, with its sequel, arguably the best thing that Dreamworks has ever made.

When I reviewed Despicable Me, I took Dreamworks to task in its notion of what constituted a family film. While many of the greatest family films ever made operate on the same level for adults and children, many of Dreamworks' offerings have been structured to deliberately work on one level for young children (e.g. fart jokes) and on another for the paying adults (e.g. jokes about The Godfather and Goodfellas in Shark Tale). Dreamworks are not alone in this regard - see also Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox - but they are the most consistent and successful offender.

It would be easy to excuse Shrek of this indictment because it came from a time before Dreamworks was the PIXAR-rivalling behemoth that it is now. Even with the huge success of Antz, the company was still finding its feet in a marketplace where CG animation was still something of a novelty. But Shrek actually works for a very different reason: it keeps the children at the forefront of its mind, and uses its more grown-up moments to stretch them rather than to pander to their parents.

Shrek succeeds where The Princess Bride was ultimately indecisive, striking a near-perfect balance between celebrating fairy tales and taking the piss out of them. Even after fourteen years and all its sequels, the film still has an edgy quality in the way that it subverts, questions or dismantles fairy tale tropes. But it also works as a straight-up fairy tale in its own right, for when you're not in the mood for deconstructing conventions or ribbing Disney.

Even in the context of other postmodern fantasies of the time, Shrek is a very comprehensive subversion of the classic Disney fairy tale. Our hero is not a chisel-jawed, pleasantly dull prince, but a grumpy, cantakerous and often selfish ogre. Our princess is not a china doll incapable of defending or thinking for herself, but a strong-willed, hot-headed and very rounded character. The villain isn't a spiteful sorceress or a vain queen, but a powerful king - the character most likely to be trusted in a Disney film. And our main characters don't settle for a life of luxury in a castle far away, but end up living in a swamp.

Much of Shrek's origins, outside of William Steig's novel, lie in the fall-out between Dreamworks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner. When Katzenberg was forced to resign from Disney in 1994, he channeled his resentment into a film which challenged Disney's values while attempting to steal their target audience. Not only is Lord Farquaad modelled on Eisner (at least, as Katzenberg saw him), but his very name is a subtle insult aimed squarely at the Disney boss.

In any other instance, this amount of bitterness would create a film that was rankly mean-spirited. But for whatever reason, all of these arch decisions about character an narrative end up creating a film with genuine heart. By turning all the Disney tropes on their heads, Shrek challenges the false expectations that the company offers in terms of romance, gender politics and agency. It's ultimately a film about inner beauty and how meaningful relationships always take genuine effort.

Shrek and Fiona's relationship finds two difficult people having their belief systems or worldviews challenged to the core. Shrek is settled on his role in life, believing that no-one could ever love him, but Fiona confounds this and allows him to express a very different side of himself. Likewise, Fiona begins the film entrenched in a perfect, fairy tale version of how love works, but then she is confronted by reality and has to learn what true love really looks like.

What's often forgotten about Shrek, in the midst of its hilarity, is how well-written it is. Not only is the film beautifully paced and delicately told, but we have an enormous empathy with the characters. They reflect the audience's experience of seeing their childish, primitive notions of how the world works fall like scales from their eyes. But there is also the comfort that it will all be okay, and in a genuine way: even if your happy ending isn't how you imagined it, there is love out there for everyone.

Outside of its beautiful writing and intelligent sniping at Disney, Shrek is also a fantastically entertaining film. Its visuals pushed the limit of what was possible in computer graphics at the time, having a more appealing gruesome quality than Disney and boasting the best CG dragon prior to The Hobbit trilogy. Its battle sequences are fast-paced and exciting, its characters are witty and inventive, and all the reference gags (including a neat jab at The Matrix) still hit their mark and feel fresh.

The film also benefits from a cracking soundtrack, with each track beautifully capturing the mood of the scene in which it appears. At one end we have Joan Jett's 'Bad Reputation', which makes Shrek fighting all the knights all the more kick-ass, and 'All Star' by Smash Mouth, which brings a real rhythm to our main character's introduction. But we also have John Cale's version of 'Hallelujah' (by far the best), which makes the marriage preparations all the more tender and sad. They're sublime choices, and Harry Gregson-Williams' incidental work isn't half bad either.

No review of Shrek would be complete without looking at the voice cast. It's easy to praise Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy now that they have become forever identified with their respective roles. But directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson deserve credit for marshalling these often unassailable energies into performances which are focussed, heartwarming and hilarious. Princess Fiona contains some of Cameron Diaz' best work to this day, playing on the sparky quality which isn't always present in her other films. And John Lithhow is perfect as Farquaad, drawing on his work in Footloose and Raising Cain to craft an appealingly cruel but ridiculous villain.

Shrek is arguably the best thing that Dreamworks has ever done, and it still stands as a first-rate animated film that everyone can enjoy. Even after fourteen years it retains an edge and an energy that many films aspire to, coupled to a cast in excellent voice and a surprisingly subtle message. Whatever your feelings about the sequels or the brand that has grown up around it, it remains essential viewing and a rollicking good ride.
Super Reviewer
August 15, 2013
With its colorful characters, light nature, gorgeous score, simple plot, and memorable sequences (most notably the "Hallelujah" montage), Shrek--though it may not be the most brilliant animated film to grace the silver screen--is ultimately a rewarding, fun experience.
Market Man
Super Reviewer
½ August 16, 2012
Definitely one of the best animated films ever made. So many funny scenes and references to pop-culture. Love the adult humor as well. The character development throughout is perfect. Too bad about all the sequels after the 2nd film, have to ruin the franchise. They juice out whatever they can to make a quick buck. Shame!
Super Reviewer
February 28, 2011
Shrek is up there with the greatest animated films ever. It is an animated film that was everything a comedy and animated film should be, but I am serious, never before has a movie spoofed fairy tales and princess stories so well and it actually has a great deal of heart to it that made it just so better as well. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz were incredible in voicing their roles and their characters are some of the most memorable and fun characters in animated film history. Shrek is hard to top in animatio because of how well they struck gold when making this masterpiece, it isn't the greatest animated film ever, but I swear on the name of God its one of the best.
Directors Cat
Super Reviewer
August 16, 2011
Shrek is a film that never disappointed me. This humourous take on fairytale's provides a great message to its audience and is by far the best out of a series that unfortunately will NEVER end.
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2011
A great animated film!
Super Reviewer
½ May 26, 2007
I used to LOVE Shrek, back when I watched an average of like 2 movies a year. I guess my standards were lower or something because I cannot watch this anymore without gagging at the barrage of cultural references I'm met with. For nostalgia purposes, though, yeah, why not. 3.5 stars.
Super Reviewer
½ May 19, 2011
This movie defines Dreamworks as a company. Accessible animated comedy, gag after gag to keep you laughing and munching popcorn happily with a hint of heart-warming drama to top it all off.

Sure, it never seems to reach the levels of masterful storytelling as Pixar but damn, do they know how to deliver cheap laughs and fun.
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2006
It's a traditional fairytale fractured boosted by clever animation - the first DreamWorks Animation and Oscar for Best Animated Film.
The charm comes from the funny characters who are brought beautifully to life by Mike Myers as grumpy orge Shrek, Eddie Murphy as wise-cracking Donkey and Cameron Diaz as the wistful princess. The scene with evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) and defiant Gingerbread Man is just one highlight.
Shrek and Donkey are hilarious in their adventure altogether to rescue Princess Fiona.
Super Reviewer
August 9, 2010
Classic! One of the best non-Pixar Studio animated films, if not the best! I love it!
Super Reviewer
November 16, 2010
It is hard to say that I am not a fan of Shrek because I am, but I find no compulsion to watch it over and over as I do with movies that I am truly a fan of. As funny as it however many times you see it, the originality has been broken by so many remakes that progressivly dissolved the first. A good movie that my daughter will always love and that I do not mind watching but far from my favorite from Dreamworks.
Super Reviewer
½ June 18, 2010
The starting was pretty gross which made me think twice whether to watch the rest of it. But the rest was neat. I was expecting this to be mind blowing as I watched the 4th part at first. I happened to liked that one. But was it because I watched that one on the theater made it looked so awesome? Because I didn't think this was awesome. It was good. But for some unknown reasons I didn't liked it that much. The story was unique. The dialogues were laughable. But something was missing. I did enjoyed the dragon and the donkey falling in love part. But yeah, maybe my hopes were way too high.
michael e.
Super Reviewer
½ December 22, 2010
i loved it when i first saw it but the more i watched it, the more i started to dislike it
Super Reviewer
February 19, 2008
Hillariously FUNNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy & Cameron Diaz are incredibly awesome in this brilliant movie from Dream Works :)
Super Reviewer
June 23, 2010
Movie Monster
Super Reviewer
June 15, 2010
Shrek may be a crude and irreverant animated film but has charm and wit. Every character in this film is so funny especially the Gingerbread Man. He cracks me up everytime he's on screen. The film also knows how to decipt the characters well. Shrek starts off as a mean and heartless ogre but gets funny along the way., Princess Fiona looks like a sweet princess but proves she can be fiesty and butt-kicking, and Donkey he makes you smile once he says his first line.

The ending of Shrek is one of the best I've seen in a movie. Shrek and Fiona have a happy ending and Donkey sings a great cover of "I'm a Believer."

I don't like the fact that some other crappy animation studios try to make a comedy about fairytales because they just turn out being a ninety minute pile of SUCK! Except for Pixar. Their movie, "Brave", is a fairytale film that is expected to come out in 2012. I'm excited for that. I can never go wrong with Pixar!

When you get around Shrek, sit your butt down and watch it!
Kyle F.
Super Reviewer
½ June 8, 2010
Still the best in the franchise after 10 long years, despite some mean competition. The characters, the story, and the willingness to take chances that is so often lacking in Pixar films are all present. The movie gets funnier with every rewatching,with just the slightest facial expressions giving giggles, not that facial expressions are needed with such fantastic dialogue. Eddie Murphy is explosively fun, and Mike Myers offers splendid depth. Two of the best animated voice jobs of the century.
Super Reviewer
½ May 7, 2007
A family-friendly classic. Shrek is heart-warming, fun, and the animation just jumps off the screen. I can't believe I nearly went 10 years without seeing it.

Great jokes for kids and parents about all the other fairy tales, and yet, it is a fairly tale... but, on top of the classic quest story, you've got Eddie Murphy riffing the whole way through. It was great to see many of his legendary standup themes recycled into the film.

Beautiful film, exciting and unconventional and with a good moral. One that everyone should see. (Duh!)
Super Reviewer
½ May 26, 2006
The Ultimate anti-fairytale.
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